Monday, October 17, 2005

The Devil Drives a Hansom Cab with Tartan Seat Trims

Occasionally, in my lucid moments, I experience a flashing vision of the improvement to public life which devolution was supposed to bring. We, the Scottish people, would be in charge of our own affairs. There would be no more experiments with poll taxes; newsreaders would be permittted - and in some cases, forced - to glottal stop; children would once again be raised on a diet of McCowan's penny chews and macaroon bars; community steamies would be re-introduced, and housewives would, again, be able to spend their days discussing the many and varied ways in which their menfolk enjoyed mince, rather than making bonfires of their brassieres and driving buses. (I may have paraphrased the Scotland Act slightly).
Well, some of this has come to pass, but I must confess to a growing feeling of disillusionment with the realities of life in our brand new land.
You may recall that in the mid-1990s, it was fashionable to talk of a "Braveheart spirit" in the country. I have not seen the picture, but I understand that Braveheart offered a fabricated and sentimental version of history, replacing fact with sentiment; all of it rendered in the kind of accents which in olden times would have caused the tutors at the RSAMD to gnaw the carpets in frustration. The film's director, Mr Mel Gibson, was - like the publisher Mr Rupert Murdoch - an Australian who had become an American, though I dare say that both of them would be able to purchase a pair of trews in the family tartan if they ever walked down the Royal Mile.
Braveheart was never my dream for the devolved Scotland. I rather hoped it would be like Whisky Galore!, with the feisty natives reclaiming their natural rights from the dimwitted bureaucrats who imagined they were in charge of the country's affairs. Or, if a more modern parallel were required, there was Local Hero, in which the heartlessness of globalisation was knocked out of Mr Burt Lancaster by the simple means of exposing him to a red telephone kiosk in Pennan.
But what do we have? Well, one advantage of my advancing senility is that I have no time for useless detail, so the flim-flam of contemporary politics escapes me. Instead, I am left with impressions. Currently, my vision of devolution comprises a handful of images, all of which are related. The parliament building has won the Stirling Prize for architecture, though it resembles a concrete factory in Helsinki. The green statue of the Father of the Nation, Mr Donald Dewar, has been removed from a Glasgow shopping mall to the Powderhall bronze works for renovations, following repeated assaults on his spectacles. Lord Watson has fallen from grace after mistaking the curtains at Prestonfield House for a post-prandial cigar.
And now we have the affair of Mr David McLetchie who has, it is said, made several errors in his claims for travelling expenses. Among the trips he made were jaunts to the Playhouse Theatre, the National Gallery, his dentist in Montgomery Street, Edinburgh, and - for reasons that I have attempted to forget - to the medieval hamlet of Midlem, near Selkirk, in 2003. It takes an unfashionable level of desperation to spend £90 on a journey to Midlem, though I would happily pay a shilling to avoid such a fate.
Much has been made of the expense of Mr McLetchie's travels, and rightly so. Public money should be spent on useful things, such as sunbeds and computer games for our public libraries. My quibble is more spiritual. It is not, I think, part of the Scottish character to be at ease in a taxi. I was raised by my mother, Mrs Elder (or Ma'am), to believe that to enter a cab was to engage in a pact with the dark side. "The devil drives a Hansom cab," she used to say, "and he'll tak ye to Hell."
She didn't have much time for motorcycles either.

4 comments:

seriousmince said...

Despite the protests of Mr Tommy Sheridan MSP, Local authorities are phasing out sunbeds in council-owned leisure centres and spending the money on "sun-awareness" campaigns instead...and in less of a Chicken-Licken way than one might imagine. As Kirk Elder once more breaches the primordial darkness with a luminosity of 390 billion, billion megawatts - which is a lot of florins for one meter, might not the citizens of Peebles benefit from such a campaign?

Anonymous said...

Dr Dave writes: Whisky Galore is a strange kind of Utopia for someone of your stern moral views. As you don't much approve of either whisky or, it seems, galore, I wonder at your choice.

Anonymous said...

Mr Elder, I'm surprised you show your face online after the incident with that "model" from Drem. Where is Ms fancy pants Barr, now, hey?

Anonymous said...

Scotland, unlike other Third World countries, doesnt seem to provide chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz saloons for its political elite and this we must treat as an unfortunate oversight. It can be rectified by budget re-allocation involving the permanent closure of the risibly named Commission for Racial Equality together with the abolition of welfare payments to foreigners and 'facilities' for bogus asylum-seekers. Scots are a tribal people and,like the subjects of Malay Sultans, the tribe cannot be other than happy if its leaders'happiness is enhanced.